Derek Montgomery picks up his knitting needles every morning at 8.30am – and bar breaks for cups of tea – he knits until 11pm each night. “I never knit past 11,” he declares.
He even knitted beside the pool while on a recent month-long trip to Italy – and even though he had a lot to do over there, he still managed to turn out no fewer than 30 hats.
If he’s not knitting, he’s crocheting, and if he’s not crocheting, the former hairdresser – who is about to open his own shop in Mullingar – is making ladies’ headpieces.
Anyone keeping an eye on the recent Prix de l’Arc de Triomphe race in Paris may have even seen one of his headpieces, as it was worn by actor Hugh Jackman’s wife.
“Yes I do get slagged! I get an awful slagging,” admits the Bellview Heights man, who only took up knitting two years and a half years ago – and who has either knit or crocheted over 2,500 items just since January of this year.
But he doesn’t mind, as what started as a hobby but became an obsession will now, he hopes, become a full-time job.
“I had my own salon in Dublin, but then the recession hit, and I as looking for another form of income,” he says.
“I saw a TV programme on RTÉ 1 about men knitting, and I walked to the local wool shop and got a ball of wool, and started looking up videos on YouTube.”
That was his first time to really try to knit, although there had been an opportunity to learn when he was younger.
“Yes, years ago, at Bellview School, they tried to teach us to knit, and they tried to get us to knit a teddy – so the wool and the needles were sent to my aunt in Sligo, and they came back as a teddybear, stuffed and all,” he laughs.
The first thing he knit after picking up the method on YouTube was a cowl scarf.
“It was during the heavy snow, and I wore it out one night – and people stopped me and asked me where I got it. They thought it was from All Saints – the brand that JLS would wear.”
Although that was his first effort, it caught the eye of a fashion magazine later at a craft fair where he was selling his handknits, and the magazine photographer pictured him wearing it.
Soon after starting to knit, Derek decided he’d like to learn crochet as well, and now he does both.
The 30 beanie hats he made in Italy were crocheted. Derek also does machine knitting.
He reckons a lot of young people are taking up knitting, and for anyone local interested in starting, he advises they take three steps: watch YouTube, and then go to the Knit One Purl One shop at St Loman’s Terrace in Mullingar and get a ball of scarf yarn, and then “practise, practise, practise”.
He has great praise for Terry Daly of Knit One Purl One.
“I went into Knit One Purl One – the only full wool shop in Mullingar, and Terry in there gave me great support and introduced me to a whole new world of wool.
“I found her great for teaching – she does crochet classes and knitting classes – and she taught me about the different types of wool, and the different grades and qualities.”
Having done some of the classes, he found a whole new set of friends – something greatly welcomed when he returned back to live in Mullingar after 10 years in Dublin.
Derek agrees that a lot of knitting patterns are naff. But that doesn’t bother him, simply because he doesn’t really follow them.
“I don’t do patterns, but a lot of the time, I might glance at a pattern, but I’ll do something completely different,” he says, meaning that every piece he produces is different, and, indeed, original.
He finds it exciting to take up a piece of wool, and to create something.
“You are making something out of nothing. I love it. I love it when you are starting with something, and then you end up with something else.”
He knits using chunky wools which knit faster than the finer wools; and he is a fast knitter.
Derek’s new shop, selling his original creations, Montgomery Designs, opens on Mount Street on September 21.
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